Guide to Winter Sleds

Sleds for sliding downhill and ice fishing.

In winter, nature gives us snow and ice, laying out a bounty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. So, we take to it with gusto to have fun and build memories. For many, the fun begins with a sled, the vehicle that provides slide-and-glide thrills on snow for families and the means to haul gear onto the ice for ice fishing.

Whatever your preference, there is a sled for you. Let’s look at the variety of sleds to help you find the type(s) that is best for you and your family. Yippee!



Sledding is for everybody, a healthy activity that’s easy to access for anyone of any age. And, once you reach the top of a sledding hill, easy. Just plop on a sled and go, letting gravity do what it does best: zipping wide-eyed and giggling riders down the hill. But, while sledding is for everybody, all sleds are not alike. So, let’s look at the differences.

Saucer Sleds Also called “discs,” these one-person circular sleds with a concave bottom are fast but difficult to control, which is part of the fun. They are typically made of high-impact plastic or metal and have a molded or attached handle.

Inflatable Sleds, or Tubes The inflatable sled originated from a tire or tractor tube ꟷ “inner tube.” Circular or elongated ovals with a hole in the center, the more current tube models are no longer rubber but made of plastic or vinyl. Designed with molded or attached handles, some models have plastic stretched across the hole as a seat. Like saucers, tubes are difficult to control but with the inflated fun of the bounce on uneven terrain.

Toboggans Long and narrow, the toboggan is a simple sled with a long, flat bottom typically crafted of thin boards that curve up at the front. Today’s market boasts a variety of models made of plastic, many with padded seats. You can even find inflatable models. Traditionally used as a form of transport, the toboggan comes in lengths up to 12 feet to seat one or more people for recreational purposes.

Foam Sleds Built for one or two people, foam sleds are constructed with polyethylene foam that is less likely to crack than an all-plastic sled. A thin layer of plastic on the bottom provides additional protection against rocks and other impacts. Some models have a scooped deck for improved steering. Foam sleds are built with handles and cut into rectangular shapes, but you can find models cut in various wild shapes for thrill seekers seeking a speed run.

Steering Sleds Originally known as a runner sled (think Flexible Flyer), these upgraded, and sometimes wild-looking, sleds give the rider control over where they travel. The sleds are equipped with steering handles that connect to tracks under the sled, putting control of the ride (mostly) into the hands of the rider. The sleds typically require the rider to ride head forward and stomach down but sit-on models are available.

Stand-Up Sleds Think “scooter,” which is an excellent way to visualize the style. Another way to think of this sled is a snowboard with an upright handle. The rider of this sled stands on the deck, holds the handle, and either launches down a slope, letting gravity do the work, or scoots along a packed trail with a foot providing propulsion. Plastic and polyurethane are commonly used to construct stand-up sleds.


When the ice is thick enough for ice fishing, it’s time to go ice fishing. Transporting ice-fishing gear from a vehicle in a sled is a much better option than carrying it to the fishing spot in a backpack or armloads. Without the ability to drive onto the ice with a snowmachine or vehicle, here are sledding options.

Toboggan As described above, the toboggan is the traditional option that works for nearly any sledding opportunity, including transporting gear out onto the ice.

Utility Sleds Fortunately, the market is robust with durable, spacious, easy-to-pull sleds specific to ice fishing.  Made of thick polyethylene, a utility sled is a heavy-duty option with molded runners that enhance sled stability.

Tube A tube has a small capacity to haul gear but is a good, lightweight option when there is no other option. It’s also handy to keep young kids entertained during times when fish have yet to decide to bite. For transporting gear, fasten a board or other option across the hole to prevent gear from falling through.

Saucer Like the tube, there is not a lot of space in a saucer, but it is a more durable, workable option. And, also fun for restless kids.

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